Call me sentimental or just a big ol’ baby.
But the new Netflix film “Fatherhood,” which addresses the theme of a single father left to raise his daughter alone after tragedy strikes, had me reaching for the tissue from beginning to end.
The dramatic comedy, based on true events, starts with a couple happily anticipating the birth of their first child, Maddy. But when the mother, Liz, suffers a pulmonary embolism and dies, the father, Matt, painfully learns valuable lessons about grief, parenthood and the importance – if not necessity – of community.
Comedian and actor Kevin Hart portrays the lead character, Matt Logelin. And while reviews remain mixed on the results of his move from comedic actor to his first outing in a serious role, this writer says he’s phenomenal.
As for “Fatherhood,” it’s the kind of film that the entire family will enjoy.
With the release of the film on Friday, June 18, just two days before Father’s Day, Hart has already begun to make the rounds including an interview with TODAY’S Craig Melvin, also on June 18.
Hart, a father to four children in real life, Heaven, 16, Hendrix, 13, Kenzo, 3 and Kaori, 8 months, told Melvin that he used his own experiences to help him with the role – his first in which he’s been allowed to stretch his acting chops and tackle more serious topics.
“This is an opportunity to not only share my story but bringing light to a thing that happens that people don’t really know happens often,” Hart said. “[Matt’s] journey from pain to happiness is one like no others. So my respect level went through the roof. And my appetite for a meaningful piece of material went through the roof as well.”
Hart said he and his producing partners, Michelle and Barack Obama, felt the film provided a rare opportunity to “change the narrative.”
“In today’s time and in our culture, you’re talking about a . . . Black man on the big screen, playing the role of a father in a positive light. I don’t think I need to say it but it’s not something you see often, right?” he asked.
“The Obamas got that. This is a great opportunity to uplift, Black fathers and Black men and to give a nod to those who are embracing fatherhood,” Hart said.
Matt Logelin, who’s white, says he started writing in a blog, then later turned it into a book, “Two Kisses for Maddy,” to document the time he and his wife had shared so that their daughter would know some of the precious memories which he and his wife once shared.
Logelin told TODAY Parents that he anticipated that his personal blog and later the book would find such a big audience.
“It feels naive to say this sometimes but I never thought I would be doing this (interview),” he said. “I never thought anybody other than I thought my mom would go and buy like 50 copies of it.”
Instead, his book went on to become a bestseller and a movie on the streaming platform Netflix.
“I really want people to understand that with the right amount of help – it could be therapy, it could be having people around you who can help you through this stuff – that there is a way through some of these more difficult moments in our live,” Logelin said. “I think there’s a lot of times where we might doubt ourselves . . . So, hopefully people will see that and take heart and make sure that they’re also asking for help when they need it.”
Logelin added that he was happy with Hart’s casting as the lead of the film and believes the comedian did an “incredible” job with the role.
“[Kevin Hart’s] the funny dude,” he said. “This is the guy selling out all the stadiums in Asia (on tour). But what they’re not used to, probably, is that Kevin Hart is going to make them cry. I think a lot of people are going to see this man taking on this role and being a parent under the worst circumstances and I think it’s gonna resonate for a lot of people.”
Unlike the book, the film “Fatherhood” addresses Black maternal mortality, stereotypes about Black fatherhood and Black joy.
“This is an incredibly positive depiction of single fatherhood, Black single fatherhood specifically, which I think is such a cool thing we don’t see that in a lot of movies,” Logelin said. “Hollywood has done a really terrible job over the years of just whitewashing stories and so it’s nice and refreshing to see somebody say, we’re not going to do this this time. We’re going to bring the most wonderful cast together to make a really beautiful movie,” he said.
And that’s exactly what the producers and director have accomplished.
Don’t miss seeing “Fatherhood.” But before sit down, make sure you have a box of tissue close by.
“Fatherhood” is directed by Paul Weitz from a screenplay by Weitz and Dana Stevens and is based on the 2011 memoir “Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss and Love” by Matthew Logelin. The film stars Kevin Hart, Alfre Woodard, Frankie R. Faison, Lil Rel Howery, DeWanda Wise, Anthony Carrigan, Melody Hurd (as Maddy) and Paul Reiser.
Originally scheduled to be released in theaters by Sony Pictures Releasing,“Fatherhood” was sold to Netflix amid the COVID-19 pandemic and was digitally released on June 18. The film has received mixed reviews from critics, although Hart’s against-type performance has received well-deserved praise.